That Sneaky Little Toxic Ingredient
It hides in place you wouldn’t even dream it would be. In your shampoo, conditioner, body lotions, medications and even coffee. Slowly but surely, it inflicts inflammation and turmoil in your body.
That sneaky little toxic ingredient known as gluten.
When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, gluten became my number one enemy. Gluten is a trigger for autoimmune disease: signaling the body to attack itself, causing elevation in antibodies, contributing to leaky gut and overwhelming the immune system with inflammation and its toxic properties.
The gluten molecule also resembles thyroid tissue. This molecular mimicry causes the body to attack thyroid tissue even more in people who have thyroid autoimmune disorders, such as myself.
In order to reverse my autoimmune condition and be in remission, gluten had to go for good.
Prior to my diagnosis I was mostly gluten free. My household food products were gluten free and I ordered from the gluten free menu when eating out. But I wasn’t paying close attention to the sneaky or less obvious places where gluten was hiding.
I would order fries made in the same fryer as other gluten-laden foods, such as chicken strips. I would assume that foods on the menu were gluten free if they appeared to be, and hesitated to ask my server to make sure they were. And I certainly wasn’t checking any products outside of food items for hidden gluten.
All of that changed when my health was put on the line and I had to make a choice about what was more important to me…
Did I want to live a life battling symptoms of Hashimoto’s, struggling with my weight, my mood and hormones?
Or was giving up gluten worth being able to resume a normal, happy and healthy life?
For me, my health and happiness was worth more than the occasional slice of bread, pizza, pasta dish or cupcake.
It doesn’t matter if it’s one bite or one slice, it’s still toxic.
A gluten exposure is a gluten exposure. The smaller the size or amount doesn’t make the damage any less. People often think one little bite won’t hurt, but the reality is that it does.
The tricky thing about gluten is that it doesn’t just exist in the form of bread or pasta. It’s also found in hundreds of different foods and personal care products.
The body doesn’t just absorb gluten through food, its also absorbed through skin and in more severe reactivity cases even gluten that becomes airborne from the use of products such as wheat flour can pose an issue for some people. It can become embedded in porous surfaces, such as wood cutting boards. I’ve seen cases where gluten eating family members are contaminating gluten free family members by using the same cutting boards and cooking tools.
This is why some people may not see an improvement when they go “gluten free” with food.
They may have cleaned up gluten from their diet, but they are being exposed to it in some other way.
When gluten enters the body, it increases intestinal permeability, meaning it opens up the gates of the intestinal barrier, allowing toxins and food particles to freely flow into the bloodstream. The body then sounds the alarm that foreign invaders have entered the bloodstream. It enlists an immune system response and sends inflammation out to fight off the bad guys and to repair the damage.
Overworking the immune system in this way adds insult to injury for those who have an autoimmune disorder. It can be the tipping point for those at risk for autoimmunity or it can depress the immune system in “healthy” individuals.
Repairing the intestinal lining after an exposure to gluten, and therefore other toxins that have now free flowed into the body, is very complex. And compounding factors such as food sensitivities, existing hormone imbalances, insulin resistance, IBS, stress, infections and an already existing state of leaky gut can slow the healing process even more. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have single compounding factor who could swiftly recuperate from a gluten exposure, because at the very least all of us have stress.
One exposure to gluten can cause damage to the gut for as little as 3 weeks and up to 6 months.
In this week’s video I reveal the sneaky little places where gluten might be hiding and how you can support your body after an exposure.
First, let’s define what gluten is – it’s part of the grain structure found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s what makes bread-like products or pasta sticky and doughy. Therefore it’s also used to thicken sauces and products such as shampoos, conditioners and lotions. It’s also very cheap to produce, so it’s used as a filling agent in other foods to create the illusion of bigger bulk for less cost.
Here are just some of the most common sneaky little places that gluten likes to hide:
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body or face lotion
- Body wash and soap
- Makeup and deodorant
- Prescription or over-the-counter medications
- Supplements – yep even the “natural” and organic ones
- Sauces, marinades and other condiments
- Potato products – chips, instant or restaurant made mash
- Meatballs and processed meats
- Flavored or instant coffee and tea
Gluten isn’t always listed as “gluten” either. So when you’re reading a menu or an ingredients list, here are the words you want to look for:
- Wheat, barley or rye
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Crusted, crispy or fried
As I mentioned earlier, I used to make the mistake of assuming things were gluten free just because they appeared to be or because they were considered all natural or healthy. I had to give up my beloved Aveda hair care products, a line that is touted by professional hair stylist for being “natural”, because it contained hydrolyzed-wheat protein. Now I always ask for gluten clarity on menu items and make sure my server lets the kitchen know about my dietary needs even if I ordered something that was gluten free.
As much as we can try to control what goes in and on our bodies, that doesn’t always guarantee a gluten free experience. For example, just a few weeks ago I clearly ordered a dairy free matcha latte with coconut milk and that’s not what I received. Although it wasn’t gluten, it just goes to show mistakes can still happen. After all, we all are only human.
So to safeguard myself against getting unexpectedly glutened here’s what I do:
- Bring my own soap, shampoo, conditioner and other body products when traveling
- Make sure my server knows I’m gluten free
- When eating out, I take a gluten destroying digestive enzyme such as NuMedica’s Glutenza, Allergy Research Group’s Gluten-Gest or Pure Encapsulations Gluten/Dairy Digest
Just think… if you have some kind of glutenous food for breakfast, followed by gluten in the body lotion you apply after a shower, gluten in the makeup you put on your face and later in your lunch or dinner, the war against gluten goes on all day in your body.
Getting rid of gluten for good played a HUGE role in my body’s ability to recover from toxic mold exposure, hormone imbalances and it was a key factor in my quick road to remission with Hashimoto’s.
Whether you have an autoimmune disorder or not, or a noticeable reaction to gluten or not, this ongoing war will eventually bring your body down. Making a conscious effort to reduce your gluten exposure or minimize it all together will have a significant and positive impact on your health and your body.